Title: To Be a Man
Author: victoria p (victoria @ unfitforsociety.net)
Summary: He remembers what it means to be a man.
Disclaimer: HBO/BBC own Rome
He is dead to me. The words echo in his ears and he knows them for the lie they are as he watches Pullo, chained up in a cage like a beast, unable and unwilling to defend himself. It feels wrong to leave him there, but Vorenus forces himself to walk away after the legionaries disperse. Pullo has sunk beyond reproach and Vorenus cannot help him now; he has his family, his position, his honor to think of.
Still, he cannot keep away when the time comes for the sentence to be carried out. Pullo will die on his feet like a man, like a soldier, a once-proud member of the Thirteenth, even if he has been reduced to murdering old men in the street, selling his services for a handful of denarii to criminals and thugs.
Vorenus remembers the mad joy in Pullo's eyes when he arrived in the Aventine with his stolen gold, and the way he'd returned it when ordered, complaining all the while. He remembers the warm strength of Pullo's arms that night they'd got drunk together and Pullo had seen him home, listening to him whinge about Niobe like a lovesick boy instead of a man. He remembers the conviction in Pullo's voice when they floated in the grey sea on a raft made of dead men, that they weren't meant to die this way -- the fates had more in store for them than a miserable, drowning death with no one to witness it and no glory to be won. He recalls the mischief on Pullo's face after he'd fucked the Egyptian princess, the loud sounds of their coupling lingering long after it was done, and the way Pullo had told him about it, relishing every little detail, despite his wish not to know.
He tries not to remember the harsh sounds of Pullo's breathing as they thrust and surged against each other on the long nights of the last campaign, two years away from Rome and the offer of a warm, friendly body breaking his resolve the way eight years in Gaul did not. He cannot explain why Pullo, of all people, nor why when he closed his eyes those nights he didn't see Niobe, as he'd expected, long dark curls and full breasts, but was always fully aware that he was fucking Titus Pullo and enjoying it, though they never spoke of it during the day.
Pullo might sell his skills, but he would never sell his loyalty, and that is what drives Vorenus into the ring when Pullo goes down. Pullo has been loyal to him, has been his friend, and that requires respect and repayment, or what use is his pride, his honor?
"The Thirteenth," he shouts, and he remembers what it means to be a friend, to be a man.
Disclaimer:Characters (real and fictional) aren't mine, no money is made with these stories and history isn't changed. Damn.